Read More: HeliOffshore Brings Safety Innovation to Offshore Operators
January 17, 2020

Competitors share data to target improved safety. 

Gretchen Haskins knows best safety practices when she sees them. The CEO of HeliOffshore Ltd. in London, UK, is an aviation industry leader in safety performance improvement and an internationally recognized expert in human factors. She has served on the board of the UK Civil Aviation Authority as group director of safety, guiding aviation safety in the United Kingdom, including airlines, aerodromes, air traffic, airworthiness, and personnel. Haskins’s aviation background includes having flown jet and piston aircraft in the US Air Force.

Haskins has led HeliOffshore since its founding in 2014 by five major helicopter operators. The organization now has 118 members that work collaboratively to improve offshore helicopter safety around the world.

ROTOR MAGAZINE: HeliOffshore is known for its ­dedication to global offshore helicopter safety. Your organization has become an example of companies—competitors—coming together to cooperate on safety issues. How hard has it been to create the necessary trust and cooperation around the idea of managing safety issues as an industrywide cooperative endeavor?

HASKINS: We were fortunate right from the start to get the CEOs of five major helicopter operators to come together and say, effectively, “We’re not going to compete on safety.” Thanks to that early, strong support for the concept, HeliOffshore has been able to create almost a safety management system for the entire industry, not just individual companies.

We started our work based on one primary question: “How would you form a collaboration to ensure that NO lives will be lost in helicopters, or certainly in offshore helicopter operations?”

It’s not a question of how this or that operator eliminates deaths in offshore operations but how the entire group does so.

ROTOR: But that sounds easier said than done.

HASKINS: Right. Well, we had to get our arms around what the broad threats facing the industry are, not just the threats individual operators see, because none of the individual operators are big enough, really, to have large enough data sets to allow them to see the full picture.

But we had a good example to follow from the fixed-wing world, which has several organizations, like the Flight Safety Foundation, ICAO, and the various airline trade groups, which all use broad data from across the industry to detect trends that may not be—and probably aren’t—visible at the single-operator level. So we borrowed from those established approaches. That had never really be done in the vertical flight world.

ROTOR: Any examples from the fixed-wing world that were especially helpful?

HASKINS: The FAA, with its CAST [Commercial Aviation Safety Team] program, set a goal years ago of reducing fatalities among US airlines by 80%, and they achieved that goal. They did it through collaboration, data sharing, and really getting the whole supply chain—from little parts suppliers to big component manufacturers to the aircraft makers, plus the FAA and other national and regional regulators—involved in sharing all their data. For the first time, we could do a good analysis of a data set large enough to detect trends that might not be noticeable by, or understandable to, one operator analyzing just their own data.

Read More: Helicopter Foundation International Changes Name
January 16, 2020

Helicopter Foundation International (HFI), HAI’s charitable arm, is undergoing a name change that more closely identifies the nonprofit organization’s role in supporting HAI missions. Effective Jan. 13, 2020, the name officially changed to the HAI Foundation.

“For many years, not everyone realized that HFI is directly connected to HAI, its parent organization,” says HAI President and CEO Jim Viola, who also serves in this role for the foundation. “This name change ties the two organizations more closely together, but the foundation’s mission and goals have not changed.”

The tax-exempt foundation also shares the same Board of Directors as HAI, with the goal of “preserving and promoting the rich heritage of vertical aviation while supporting the next generation of pilots and aviation maintenance technicians.” To achieve that goal, the foundation provides programs in three mission areas: education, safety, and historic preservation.

Most recently, the foundation has focused attention on the helicopter pilot and aviation maintenance technician shortage. It commissioned the HFI–University of North Dakota study, which was the first to document the labor shortage in the helicopter industry. Since that study was released, the foundation has been active in workforce development, holding industry forums and career roundtables addressing the issue.

The foundation has also worked closely with HAI’s Government Affairs Department, helping to initiate the Utah Rotor Pathway Program and providing information and guidance to other states interested in establishing similar educational programs. The foundation also annually awards 19 scholarships for student pilots and aviation maintenance technicians.

All donations to the HAI Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, are tax deductible in the United States. You can make a donation at to fund the foundation’s programs in education, safety, and historic preservation.

Read More: Advocating for You
January 16, 2020

HAI members: HAI is here for you! Contact with your legislative challenges.

A new decade, a new year, a new issue of ROTOR, and a new way of presenting the advocacy message for HAI members—one that will help you better understand:

  • WHAT legislation is on the horizon that will affect general aviation and the helicopter and drone industries
  • WHY that legislation will affect you and your business
  • HOW HAI supports our members through information and advocacy.

In the new approach to Advocating for You, Cade Clark, HAI vice president of government affairs, and John Shea, HAI director of government affairs, will cover critical legislation, updates to previously reported bills, any applicable calls to action (and how to contact Congress), and our grassroots outreach and member visits. They’ll also be providing more coverage of legislation and government affairs issues occurring around the world. Throughout, the HAI Government Affairs Department will provide its insider perspective into the legislative machine.

HAI has also launched its new members-only Legislative Action Center, Visit the center often for greater insight into current legislation, tools that make it easier for you to take action, and helpful resources such as updates on appropriations and elections.

We hope this new reporting format provides better value to you. Let us know what you think at!

Legislative Spotlight: H.R. 5423, Aircraft Noise Reduction Act (ANRA)

What’s in the Bill. Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO-2) recently introduced this bill, which would give general aviation (GA) airports the authority to impose certain operational restrictions relating to noise concerns, such as limiting the number and type of aircraft that could operate and setting curfews or specific hours in which they could fly.

Background. In 1990, Congress enacted the Airport Noise and Capacity Act (ANCA), which provided a process for scrutinizing noise and other access restrictions managed by the FAA. ANCA and other laws and regulations currently in place have proven to be successful over the past 30 years in allowing the public to have input on aircraft operations, and for airports, air carriers, and GA operators to thrive in the safest, most-efficient national airspace system in the world.

In addition, H.R. 5423 would overturn a current regulation that requires airports that receive federal funding to accept all aviation operations that are compliant with FAA regulations. Under the new bill, airports could restrict or limit operations for entire classes of aircraft.

What the Bill Would Do. H.R. 5423 would dismantle the national system of airports while undermining ANCA and nearly a century of precedent. It would undercut the utility and safety of thousands of airports across the United States and reverse course on a basic principle of US aviation: the need to regulate aviation matters at the federal level, which Congress has recognized since the 1920s.

Thumbs Up or Down? HAI is strongly opposed to this legislation. We’ve sent a joint letter, signed by HAI and other industry groups, to the congressional committees of jurisdiction outlining our opposition. In the meantime, we’ll continue to track the bill’s progress.

Legislative Updates

Major Victory in FY2020 Appropriations

Congress recently passed legislation funding the US government for FY 2020. In the legislation, lawmakers fully funded the new aviation technician and pilot workforce grant programs that HAI had successfully lobbied to be included in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018.

During the appropriations process, the House provided full funding for the program while the Senate appropriated half the amount. HAI worked in concert with other interested organizations to advocate for full funding. We’re very pleased to report that the aviation technician and pilot workforce development program is now fully funded at $10 million.

Under the program, grants of up to $500,000 may be used to:

  • Establish new educational programs that teach technical skills used in aviation maintenance, including purchasing equipment or improving existing programs
  • Establish scholarships or apprenticeships for individuals pursuing work in the aviation maintenance industry
  • Support outreach about careers in the aviation maintenance industry to primary, secondary, and postsecondary school students or to communities underrepresented in the industry
  • Support educational opportunities related to aviation maintenance in economically disadvantaged geographic areas
  • Support transition to careers in aviation maintenance, including for members of the US armed forces
  • Otherwise enhance aviation maintenance technical education or the aviation maintenance industry workforce.

The FAA hasn’t yet released information about the grant application process. However, to encourage the aviation community to work together, all grants must be supported by an aviation business or union, a school, or a government agency.

Public Aircraft and Logging Flight Times

HAI advocated in support of Sec. 517 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018. This provision states that the FAA administrator shall issue regulations modifying 14 CFR 61.51(j)(4) to include aircraft under the direct operational control of forestry and fire protection agencies as public aircraft eligible for logging flight times.

The implications of Sec. 517 are important for pilots who are currently flying public aircraft but are unable to log their flight time. While the legislative text is straightforward and a win for our industry, which has long pushed for this change, the FAA hasn’t yet prioritized the task of writing the regulation that will implement the language in the reauthorization bill.

HAI has been in regular communication with the committees of jurisdiction as well as other congressional offices regarding the FAA’s implementation of Sec. 517. The House Transportation Infrastructure Committee recently held a hearing on the progress of implementing provisions from the reauthorization bill. A question was submitted to FAA inquiring about the status of Sec. 517, but a response hasn’t yet been provided.

HAI will continue to work with Congress to ensure this issue is addressed and implementation is prioritized with the FAA.


Read More: Designing Urban VTOL Safety
January 16, 2020

Volume of flights demands new safety standards.

Today, the intersection of autonomy and electric propulsion has created the potential for a new class of short-range urban mobility solutions to move people in our increasingly congested city centers. We should view the challenge of creating a future with thousands of city-center VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) rooftop operations with the appropriate mix of excitement and reverence.

Some industry forecasts predict global VTOL activity to reach 150 million flight hours per year. While significant technology and infrastructure obstacles remain, we can address them. But to achieve the vision of cityscapes humming with VTOL aircraft, the emerging electric VTOL, or eVTOL, community must take on the responsibility for safety that comes with this mission.

We should start to address aviation’s future by looking at its history. Helicopter operations in the center of New York City in the 1970s ended in part because the safety level at the time didn’t support the usage rate: while aircraft safety was adequate for a small number of operations, it was inadequate to support the demands of a busier system.

The FAA faced a similar challenge in the past few decades as the number of global airline operations climbed tenfold. The airlines’ safety level had to mature concurrently with their operation in order to stay ahead of the demand curve. The ability of the regulatory community and aviation industry to safely support this expansion in airline operations was impressive; now, the urban mobility community must be prepared to do the same.

To glimpse the magnitude of this undertaking, consider current helicopter safety standards. Sikorsky’s S-92 helicopter, for example, received the 2002 Collier Trophy from the US National Aeronautic Association for its spectrum of safety features. In the 15 years since its introduction, the S-92 has earned an impressive fatal-accident rate of nearly one per million flight hours. This is made possible by the helicopter’s certification to the toughest regulatory standards.

A few examples underscore the rigor required to prepare for high-tempo commercial aviation operations. Flaw-tolerant design requires dynamic components to be purposely compromised prior to fatigue testing to ensure safe continued operation. High-intensity radiated fields (HIRF) testing requires aircraft to be intentionally exposed to significant electromagnetic radiation to ensure system integrity. The list goes on.

Yet, if the S-92 were to be deployed in a fully mature urban eVTOL market that demanded 150 million flight hours of operation per year, its outstanding safety rate could result in approximately 150 fatal accidents per year. A fatal accident nearly every other day is clearly unacceptable!

Perhaps we could assume that, in a mature eVTOL market, people would accept one fatal accident a year. But this frequency would require an approximate target accident rate of one per 100 million flight hours—100 times better than that of the current state-of-the-art S-92.

A 100-fold improvement in safety will be possible if the eVTOL community embraces the most exacting design, manufacturing, testing, and regulatory standards. Additionally, the community must successfully deploy electric propulsion and autonomy to drive out the leading causes of today’s helicopter accidents, such as controlled flight into terrain.

The concept of pushing for lower standards to ease introduction is risky. An early provider who lowers the safety bar will damage and maybe end the market for us all. Enterprises without the appetite to achieve the required level of safety should consider other ventures.

We have an exceptional opportunity to serve the public with new eVTOL technology. Let’s assume the responsibility that comes with that challenge.

Read More: About This Issue
December 11, 2019

On the cover: Writer/photographer Mark Bennett photographed the Cirque Lodge EC130, piloted by Matt Hewlett, over the countryside near Orem, Utah. A substance abuse treatment center, Cirque Lodge uses helicopter rides as a tool to encourage its residents to begin recovery. Read more about how a helicopter ride can save a life in "One Flight at a Time."

Read More: Mil2Civ Transition: Start NOW
December 10, 2019

Mil2Civ workshop at Expo a must for military aviators.

In an effort to assist military pilots and maintenance technicians who may be thinking about transitioning into a civil aviation career, I offer a bit of guidance. Attend helicopter industry meetings starting now, even if your retirement or ETS is years away. Learn about the important ways in which civil aviation regulations and culture differ from the military’s. Most important, network, network, network.

Read More: Read the Media Coverage of Our Industry Lately? You Should.
December 10, 2019

I think we all realize that our industry’s public image is slanted more toward the negative than the positive.

Preliminary research at HAI reveals that roughly 80% of media coverage that mentions helicopters is negative. Yes, I said 80%. It appears that missions such as firefighting, law enforcement, air ambulance, and maintaining the national power grid only appear in about 1 in 5 media stories. What we do best would appear to not be of high interest to the media.

Read More: Make This Election Work for You
December 10, 2019

Engaging with candidates builds relationships that matter.

Ah, campaign season in America—isn’t it grand? With the amount of media and attention focused on the November 2020 elections, you may be excused for thinking the presidential elections were right around the corner. Although watching other recent international elections shows that it isn’t just America that enjoys a good campaign season with exciting political results.